UConn Extension is seeking applicants for a full-time (11-month), non-tenure track Assistant/Associate Extension Educator, primarily based at the Fairfield County Extension Office in Bethel, CT. Extension Educators are community-based faculty who make a difference in communities by connecting community needs with university resources. Position level/rank will be commensurate with experience working with Extension. The successful candidate shall create an active 4-H youth development program with a focus on STEM, food, and agricultural literacy.
Supporting Farmers, Businesses, Students and Communities
With positive vision and great ambition, Indu Upadhyaya joined UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources in June 2019 as an Assistant Extension Food Safety Educator. Indu obtained her Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry (equivalent to DVM) and a Master’s degree in Veterinary Biochemistry from Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Veterinary Education and Research in Pondicherry, India.
After working as a practicing veterinarian in India for a year, she joined UConn to pursue her PhD from the Department of Animal Science focusing on poultry microbiology and safety.
After completing her PhD, Indu moved to the University of Arkansas Center of Excellence for Poultry Science, Fayetteville, Arkansas as a postdoctoral associate, working in collaboration with the USDA-ARS Poultry Production and Product Safety Research Unit.
Before returning to UConn as a faculty member, Indu worked as an Assistant Professor in the School of Agriculture at Tennessee Tech University for one year, where she led a collaborative research program in poultry and fresh produce safety. She also taught two upper-level undergraduate courses in poultry science and facilitated several outreach activities and recruitment drives in Tennessee.
“As I approach completion of two years in my current role, I feel respected and valued in my department and in the college community.” Indu says. “The majority of my work so far has focused on training Connecticut’s growers and producers to comply with the Produce Safety Rule (PSR), a part of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that went into effect in 2016. I am also leading outreach efforts in several USDA, NE-SARE and CPS grants and look forward to contributing to them.”
Indu has conducted other trainings including Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) training for meat and poultry producers. These provide the framework for monitoring the total food system, from harvesting to consumption, to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
Indu is working alongside extension educators in the Northeast to conduct successful trainings for producers and growers. Working closely with Diane Hirsch, an Emeritus Extension Educator for Food Safety, has made for a smooth transition. With 2020 throwing curveballs for many of us, it did not dampen UConn Extension training programs including Food Safety.
“We have successfully completed multiple farmer trainings using remote learning,” Indu says. “This includes the Produce Safety Alliance Grower training (three courses with 52 trainees) and a, three-day, Meat and Poultry HACCP training (17 participants). I have also continued farm visits during the pandemic following CDC guidelines. Various online platforms have helped me to serve the Connecticut community by remote consultation on various food safety and handling practices.”
Indu has been awarded a Hatch-Multistate Hatch grant as lead PI for mitigating the food safety risks associated with fresh produce production and is a co-PI on several USDA-NIFA, and Northeast Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education grants.
However, the biggest highlight for her in collaboration with UConn CAHNR colleagues, is a $10 million federal grant to improve sustainable poultry production globally. The USDA-NIFA funded project is developing an integrated and sustainable program for enhancing the viability of antibiotic-restricted broiler production in the poultry industry. The project launched in September of 2020 and focuses on a systems approach integrating bird health, human health, and environmental remediations to improve the sustainability of antibiotic restricted poultry production.
As a critical element in this grant, Indu is focusing on poultry outreach for both consumers and stakeholders to educate them on interventions and sustainable methods of production. She will conduct workshops, train-the-trainer programs and on-farm demonstrations to disseminate the results of the research objectives, so the stakeholders can implement more sustainable production practices.
“While our communities face ever evolving and serious challenges due to the ongoing pandemic, associated financial difficulties and health risks, I will continue to support farmers, small business owners, students and other members of the community through research, trainings and consultation in the state, region and nationally.”
Connecticut has faced challenges related to sustainable landscapes, food and agriculture, health, and the climate for generations. As problems are solved, new issues arise. Our educators faced the unprecedented challenges of 2020 and pivoted programs to offer life transformative education despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Programming moved to virtual environments through online certificate programs, virtual field days, WebEx meetings, and YouTube videos. Our educators created and released 318 new videos on YouTube. These videos reached 305,200 people and had 39,501 viewers that watched 1,200 hours of Extension instruction.
One of every nine Connecticut residents struggled with food insecurity before COVID-19. For many individuals and families, challenges surrounding food insecurity increased when the pandemic arrived and continued throughout 2020. The stress associated with food insecurity challenges one of the most basic human needs and deepens income and health disparities.
UConn Extension programs addressed the food insecurity challenges that our community members are facing due to COVID-19. Educators coordinated dairy foods donations to help address food insecurity challenges—facilitating the donation of over 160,000 pounds of dairy products statewide.
Extension works collaboratively with our partners and stakeholders to find solutions that improve our communities. We serve thousands of people every year. Our work is in every town and city of the state and the broader impacts make Connecticut a better place to live for all of us.
The human, environmental, and agricultural issues that we face change. The needs of our residents’ change. Our commitment to providing life transformative education remains steadfast.
It’s easy to take our food supply for granted while strolling through the abundant aisles of a grocery store. We do not often consider how our food gets to the store or where it comes from. A group of students in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) is bridging the communication gap between agriculture and consumers in a new documentary film, “Completely Connecticut Agriculture.”
Zachary Duda, Jonathan Russo, and Alyson Schneider are agricultural advocates and vocalize the importance of the industry while inspiring others to do the same. All three are CAHNR Agriculture and Natural Resources majors, graduating in May. The students met as high school agriscience students, and later served together as state officers in theConnecticut FFA Association. The idea for the documentary about Connecticut agriculture formed while they were state officers.
March is National Nutrition Month! This past year has proven that nutrition and health are more important to all of us than ever. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is UConn Extension’s outreach nutrition program in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). Since EFNEP’s inception as a USDA demonstration program in 1968, community educators work with low-income, limited resource families with children to learn how to food shop, prepare and eat more healthily as well as increase physical activity.
National Nutrition Month is a natural connection for EFNEP’s year round healthy lifestyle education. Designated in 1973 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, this promotion began as a weeklong campaign to promote the profession as well as to communicate nutrition messages to the public. As a result of growing consumer interest, there was a transition to month long event in 1980. Each year a theme is chosen to embody health through nutrition and physical activity.
This year’s theme is Personalize Your Plate because everyone is unique in regard to body type, goals, cultural background, taste preferences and experiences. During this unprecedented past year, EFNEP has pivoted along with the rest of the world to social media for connection and engagement with friends, family and acquaintances. Through the EFNEP Facebook page and Extension Instagram and website, messages have included recipes, video short talks and cooking demonstrations to highlight how to Personalize Your Plate. Join us on social media and our websites to learn more about nutrition and healthy lifestyle education.
As a FoodCorps service member you will teach students in the classroom and garden, but you will also learn skills that will help you grow professionally and personally. Apply to serve at www.foodcorps.org/apply
UConn Extension connects thousands of people across Connecticut and beyond each year, with the research and resources of the University of Connecticut’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. We are comprised of more than 100 educators and a vast network of volunteers. UConn Extension works collaboratively to build more resilient communities through educational initiatives aimed to cultivate a sustainable future and develop tomorrow’s leaders. The work of UConn Extension connects communities and individuals to help make Connecticut a better place to live, and a better place for future generations.
Connecticut has faced challenges related to sustainable landscapes, food and agriculture, health, and the climate for generations. As problems are solved, new issues arise. UConn Extension educators work in all 169 cities and towns of Connecticut to help solve the problems that our residents, communities, and state face. Connecting people with agriculture, the natural environment, and healthy lifestyles are critical components to a sustainable future. Extension works collaboratively with our partners and stakeholders to find solutions that improve our communities for the next generation.
The Fall season brings to us a favorite squash!! Pumpkin! Did you know it’s a squash? Pumpkin and the spices that seem to flavor it best are added to just about everything: pumpkin coffee, pumpkin muffins, and of course, pumpkin pie! As delicious as pumpkin treats are, did you know that the seeds of a pumpkin can also be roasted and enjoyed?
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of many nutrients, including fiber, protein, magnesium, and potassium1. Pumpkin seeds can be seasoned in many ways and are delightfully crunchy when roasted, which makes them a great addition to salads, trail mixes and for a simple snack-in-a-handful!
Check out this simple way to make your own roasted pumpkin seeds:
Get a pumpkin!
Fill a large bowl with warm water
Preheat oven to 275 degrees
Wash your hands!
Carefully, use a sharp knife to cut around the top of the pumpkin around the stem, and then pull on the stem to take off.
Using a large spoon or your hands, pull all of the seeds out of the pumpkin and place the clumps of seeds directly into the bowl of water. This will get messy, but it’s fun! The stringy orange pulp in the pumpkin can be discarded when pulled out with the seeds.
Use your hands to separate any remaining pumpkin pulp from the seeds in the bowl of water. The pulp will sink, and the seeds will float once in the water.
Strain seeds out of the water with a colander, and pat the seeds dry with a paper towel.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place cleaned and dried pumpkin seeds in a bowl. Now it is time to season them! This is the fun part!
For a sweet, pumpkin pie flavor, use equal parts cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
For a savory flavor option, use equal parts salt, pepper, garlic, and cumin.
Use your own spice mixture as well!
Once seasonings sprinkled on, use your hands to mix seeds well.
Lay seasoned pumpkin seeds out in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Bake the seasoned pumpkin seeds for 30-35 minutes at 275 degrees. Every 15 minutes, carefully open the oven and using a spoon or pancake flipper, stir the seeds around so they are able to roast evenly.
Once the seeds are lightly browned, remove from the oven and allow to cool on pan.
Store the roasted pumpkin seeds in a sealed container at room temperature.
There are many ways you can enjoy your toasted pumpkin seeds! A few ideas:
Beginning farmers in Connecticut are changing the face of agriculture. With their values driven, sustainable-minded farming practices, they are filling the direct-to-consumer marketplace with high quality food grown intensively on small parcels. Since 2012, UConn Extension, part of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, and its partners have responded to the growing number of beginning farmers with core training in production and business management. In recent years, it was clear that advanced-level beginning farmers (with 6-10 years of experience) were facing more complex challenges as they grappled with decisions about scale, diversification, infrastructure, and risk.
Starting this winter, UConn Extension and partners will respond to this emerging need with a new grant funded by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The grant is Solid Ground 2: Weaving Together Expert Trainings and Peer Networks for Sustained Beginner and Advanced-Beginner Farmer Success in Connecticut. It is a three-year project funded at $525,000 that builds upon the accomplishments of the existing Solid Ground Training Program to deliver increasingly relevant, high quality trainings that respond to beginning farmer skill gaps at the appropriate level.
“The new grant leverages the capacity, talent, and integrity of partner organizations to meet the needs of beginning farmers that were unmet through our Solid Ground trainings in previous years,” says Jiff Martin, the Extension Educator leading the project. “We also intend to help address the very real barrier of finding farmland for new and beginning farmers, including the unique challenges created by structural racism when farmers of color seek farmland.”
While there are many excellent opportunities in agriculture, beginning farmers and ranchers have unique needs for education, training, and technical assistance. For those within their first 10 years of operation, it’s vital they have access to capital, land, and knowledge and information to help improve their operations’ profitability and sustainability.
“Beginning farmers can be divided into two groups – early-stage and advanced-level beginning farmers,” says Charlotte Ross, one of the project co-coordinators. “Slightly more than half (52%) of beginning farmer operators have been operating a farm for six to 10 years, and the remainder (48%) have been farming for five years or less.”
Beginning farmers comprise 28% of the principal operators on Connecticut farms, and there are 2,132 beginning farmers in total. The Solid Ground program is targeting 700 farms that earn between $2,500 and $50,000 individually. The average age of Connecticut’s beginning farmers is 47.9, only slightly higher than the national average of 46.3.
“While beginning farmer owned farm businesses are generating $97 million in product sales, only 32% can farm as a primary occupation, and most (79%) depend on off farm-income at varying levels. This is the reality of small farming enterprises in Connecticut—they are often part-time, seasonal businesses that generate tremendous value to our communities in terms of land stewardship and local food markets but are typically not at a scale to support multiple employees with fair wages and benefits.” Martin states. The next three years of the Solid Ground Program will help beginning farmers build critical peer networks with each other, gain insight on entrepreneurial models, discover cost-saving DIY infrastructure projects for the farm, and improve their skills in agroecology, agriculture mechanics, urban agriculture, and soil health.
UConn Extension and its partners will work together to deliver exceptional training and networking opportunities that are practical, convenient, and accessible. UConn Extension will serve as the administrative and communications foundation on the project. Two school-based agricultural education organizations will host Agriculture Mechanic trainings for beginning farmers. Front-line community-based organizations led by people of color will plan and deliver urban farming training in the cities of Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven. Two statewide non-government organizations with a strong base of beginning farmer members will work together to implement peer networking. A regional non-government organization will coordinate matchmaking events for farmland seekers. The structure of decision-making embedded throughout this project ensures that voices of color are empowered to steer training priorities.
Project leaders will strive to deliver services in a manner that ensures equitable access to learning opportunities. The project’s overall approach recognizes the integrity and new knowledge that the beginning farmer community, and the organizations they belong to, can offer to the broader agriculture sector in our state.
UConn Extension team members include Nancy Barrett, Matt DeBacco, Kip Kolesinskas, Charlotte Ross, Rebecca Toms, and MacKenzie White. Partner organizations on the project are Connecticut Northeast Organic Farming Association, Land For Good, Love Fed Initiative, the New Connecticut Farmer Alliance, Connecticut Farmland Trust, American Farmland Trust, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Green Village Initiative, the Keney Park Sustainability Project, Park City Harvest, the Nonnewaug High School Agri-Science program, the Rockville High School Agri-Science program, and the Connecticut Farm Bureau Young Farmers Committee.
UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:
Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.
Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.